Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release of leading investigative journalist Jiang Weiping, who was freed yesterday morning after being granted a further 12 months’ remission in the six-year prison sentence he began serving in 2001, but it deplored the fact that he will continue to be deprived of his civil and political rights until January 2009.
The organisation paid homage to all the many news media and diplomats, especially in the United States, who had campaigned for his release, including the former US ambassador to China, Clark Randt, who often mentioned Jiang in speeches in 2002 and 2003.
"Jiang’s release shows the effectiveness of public statements by western governments in support of journalists imprisoned in China," Reporters Without Borders said.
John Kamm of the Duihua foundation, which campaigns for the release of political prisoners, said: "We do not clearly know the reasons for this early release, but we think it has something to do with President Hu Jintao’s coming visit to the United States."
On leaving Nanguanling prison in Dalian (the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning), Jiang went directly to his sister-in-law’s home. His wife reached him there by telephone from Canada, where she has lived in exile with her daughter since November 2004. Kamm said: "Jiang will request a passport as soon as possible in order to join them. Under Chinese law, the suspension of his civil and political rights does not prevent him from doing this." Kamm added that Jiang’s wife is still very worried about him.
Now aged 49, Jiang was arrested on 4 December 2000 in Dalian and was given the eight-year sentence for "divulging state secrets" and "trying to overthrow the government." His sentence was previously reduced by two years on appeal in December 2002.
He was arrested after writing a series of reports for a Hong Kong-based daily newspaper on alleged corruption among senior officials in northeastern China, including then provincial governor Bo Xilai, who subsequently became a member of the Communist Party Central Committee and trade minister.